Staff Editorial: To snitch or not to snitch? Students unlikely to voluntarily help police

Would you ever turn your peers in to the police? After 10 students and two visitors at Wesleyan University were hospitalized from consuming a toxic batch of the drug MDMA, school President Michael Roth urged students to give the names of those distributing the drug.

He wrote in a letter to students, “If you are aware of people distributing these substances, please let someone know before more people are hurt.” Four students were recently arrested in connection to the incident, but it is not known if they were named by other students. The president’s request brings up the ethical questions of whether or not students should turn in their peers and if students should be trusted with issues of this magnitude.

While a tainted batch of molly is certainly an immediate public health risk, the onus should not necessarily be on students to find its source. While the president’s request is more of a “see something, say something” approach, it still puts students in an uncomfortable position.

It is not the students’ job to police their school for drugs––that is the job of the campus and/or local police. All students can do in good faith is look out for themselves. By asking students to turn one another in, Wesleyan is creating an environment in which students do not elevate one another, but rather can get one another suspended; as in the case for the four arrested students who have been pending a formal hearing.

This issue ultimately boils down to one’s personal opinion about the merits of “snitching.” It is typically unpopular for students to snitch on their peers, especially in dangerous situations that might risk anonymity. Most students would not want to risk being revealed as a source to police; this could lead to cyber-harassment or ridicule.

Students often stand in solidarity on issues that may not be as dangerous, such as the criminalization of marijuana. At schools like Geneseo where there is a significant number of marijuana busts, it is doubtful that students would turn each other in for a more minor drug offense.

It is reasonable for students to be reluctant to involve themselves in a serious investigation, even if they have valuable information. To potentially have your name attached to a situation like one at Wesleyan––even as a helpful informant––may look questionable to future employers. In the end, it is the responsibility of the police to handle serious cases, as students may not be the most eager to participate.